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Wednesday October 25, 2000

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WRC Advisory Board member to speak about sweatshops

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By Shana Heiser

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Task force, SAS hope influence will encourage FLA

Richard Appelbaum, Worker Rights Consortium Advisory Council member, will be the first of two speakers coming to the UA to discuss factory monitoring in sweatshops.

Appelbaum, a sociology professor at University of California at Santa Barbara, will speak tomorrow evening about the WRC's principles and those of the Fair Labor Association. He will also address what students can do in the area of global apparel production.

"The FLA model of certification can't work given the structure of the apparel industry," Appelbaum said. "It winds up certifying manufacturers as sweat-free when there's no way of knowing what's going on."

The University of Arizona Human and Labor Rights Task Force invited and sponsored Appelbaum's speech, the first in a speaker series dealing with issues concerning commitments made by Likins to SAS members in April 1999, said Andrew Silverman, task force member and a UA law professor.

The WRC, which began last year, has about 55 university members. The FLA started in 1996 and has about 147 university members with one university representative on the 12-member FLA board. The FLA is also made up of corporations, companies and non-governmental organizations.

Although Appelbaum's organization has no official position regarding dual membership in the WRC and FLA, he said he agrees with and wants to help students who want their colleges to withdraw from the FLA.

"The students will have to accomplish that, but I'll certainly provide them with as many arguments as I can," Appelbaum said.

Students Against Sweatshops spokeswoman Rachel Wilson said she hopes Appelbaum can help strengthen the university's role in the WRC and influence UA President Peter Likins' future decisions.

"I hope he can really give us a clear indication of what the UA can do next, to really build up the WRC," she said.

A significant difference between the WRC and FLA is that the Consortium enables workers to complain when there's a problem in their factories, Appelbaum said. The complaints are also made public, which leads to "proactive corrective legislation."

"(This) is a way of putting pressure to make sure their factories are clean," Appelbaum said. "The WRC also calls for spot checks, unannounced visits in locales where there have been repeated violations, or locales where workers are particularly repressed so that they can't complain."

In contrast, the FLA methods are "counterproductive," Appelbaum said.

"The FLA is really set up to enable manufacturers to get the stamp of approval without really changing the way they do business."

Silverman said he wants Appelbaum's visit to be productive to the entire UA community. He hopes the speech will explore issues and answer questions surrounding sweatshops, the WRC and the FLA.

"Part of the mission of the task force is to educate not only ourselves but the campus about these issues," he said.

Appelbaum will meet with Likins alone Friday morning, which will be followed by a meeting with Likins and members of SAS.

SAS needs to take their lead from the WRC, Wilson said.

SAS wants to dismiss Mike Low, licensing and trademark director, to represent the UA in the WRC.

"Mike Low is really tied into the FLA structure, and given that he has such strong ties to the corporate agenda, it might be better to find someone else," Wilson said.

But Low said he disagreed with Wilson's assertion of his agenda.

"I don't think it's a conflict, both groups are looking to accomplish the same goal: to eliminate sweatshops," Low said.

Appelbaum will speak at the College of Law in Room 139, 7 p.m. tomorrow. Sam Brown, executive director of the FLA will speak Nov. 6.

"They clearly are the two primary monitoring organizations, and we should hear from both of those organizations," Silverman said.